Finding Your Purpose: Erika’s PSC Story

At 16 years old, I was told I would need a liver transplant within ten years. Being told at any age that you will eventually need a liver transplant is terrifying news, but being told as a junior in high school made it even a harder pill to swallow. While a surprising diagnosis can flip your world upside down, I promise if you try hard enough, you can always find a light at the end of each day. Some days it may be a little harder to find the positivity, but look closely and it is always there.

When dealing with chronic illness in my young adult years, I constantly heard from people, “You are too young to have to deal with this.”

In reality, that is not how things work. Chronic illness does not have good timing. It does not wait until you are old, when you have gotten the most out of your young years, or when you have lesser responsibility with more time to sit around and just ‘be sick’. Primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) interrupts my life, popping up at the most inconvenient times. When I sit down and think about it though, what really is timing anyway? The timeline of our lives is so unknown, and when our heads hit the pillow each night, there never is a guarantee of what tomorrow will hold. With that, I like to think that we are all placed on this earth with a purpose. Some people may spend their whole life searching for that purpose, while others may find that their purpose is what fuels their greatest passions in life.

As my timeline of life plays out, I would have never discovered my life purpose without my diagnosis. PSC is truly an invisible illness because while so much damage may be happening to your liver you don’t look sick on the outside. One of the biggest symptoms is fatigue. When I am in a flare, I can sleep for 15 hours of the day but still struggle finding energy once I am awake. However, no matter what my body is going through, I still try to make the most of life’s precious moments.  While those of us fighting PSC have more hard days than easy, and a lot more hard days than the average person, we also have this natural gift to push through when times get tough. Because of PSC, I have been able to realize that my diagnosis comes with a purpose, and I have discovered that through helping others.

Finding my purpose has helped me realize I am not wasting my time here; and while on more days than I would like, I have to spend my day resting in bed because I simply don’t have the energy to get up, I know on my good days I am pushing myself to make a difference, inspire those around me, and help bring a positive light to the world of chronic illness.

So go out and find your purpose! Whether you want to inspire people to keep reaching towards their goals in the face of hardships, or you just want to be the best student, employee, parent, sibling, or friend that you can be, look deep into yourself and find what you want to achieve in life. Just because you are diagnosed with a rare disease, does not mean your life has to be completely different or no longer have the value you wanted it to have. Don’t let a chronic illness define who you are. Instead, let it be one of your most positive traits so that people look at you and say, “Wow look at how this person is living, ALL while dealing with a chronic illness!”

After all, someone wise once said,

“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”

So go out and do just that.

Erika Farrell

Erika Farrell

Erika Farrell is 21 years old and was diagnosed with the rare diseases Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis and Autoimmune Hepatitis at the age of 16, while also diagnosed with Crohn's Disease. Since her diagnosis, Erika has made it her mission in life to inspire as many people as she can by sharing her story with others. In 2016, Erika started a platform named "Turn Your Pain Into Power" through which she encourages people to continue to follow their dreams even in the face of illness. Erika is currently in nursing school working towards her dream of becoming a Neonatal Nurse. Being admitted to the hospital many times throughout the past four years, Erika finds it helps her empathize and connect with her patients since she knows what it feels like to be in their situation. Get to know more about Erika's life journey with chronic illness by following her on Instagram @erika_farrell or Twitter @erikka_theresa.

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